Pubdate: Mon, 19 Jan 2004
Source: Times-Standard (Eureka, CA)
Copyright: 2004 MediaNews Group, Inc.
Author: Sara Watson Arthurs
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


A medical marijuana policy under consideration by the county has some
educators worried that they might be asked to violate their federal
"drug-free schools" mandate.

Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will consider a proposed
ordinance on Tuesday that would allow possession of 3 pounds of
marijuana, or 99 plants, without prosecution. A new law, SB 420,
allows local governments to establish their own limits.

The Humboldt County Board of Education has voted to oppose the
proposed ordinance. The board is urging the Board of Supervisors to
keep to state standards, which allow medical marijuana patients or
their caregivers to possess eight ounces of processed marijuana and
six mature or 12 immature plants.

Board President Mary Scott said the proposed ordinance could affect
schools' federal funding. Schools are required to abide by the federal
Safe and Drug Free Schools Act, which mandates strict policies
regarding employee use and possession of drugs and requires that
schools teach students that illegal drugs are wrong and harmful.

Federal law does not recognize marijuana as legal in any
circumstances. Schools which violate the federal law could risk losing
federal funding, Scott said.

School districts are also federally required to certify "drug-free
school zones," meaning that there are no illegal drugs within 1,000
feet of school sites.

State law allowing medical marijuana already contradicts federal law,
but Humboldt County Superintendent of Schools Garry Eagles said the
policy recommended by the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office
"exacerbates the potential of being in conflict."

Eagles said school officials sympathize with people who may benefit
from the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, but they worry about
the more lenient policy's potential harm to schools.

"Because the law allows caregivers to be caregivers for more than one
person, we could be talking about potentially enormous quantities of
both processed marijuana and growing within very short distance of
schools," he said.

Chris Evans, a drug and alcohol counselor at McKinleyville High
School, said educators also worry that schools could be required to
allow students to possess medical marijuana on school grounds. This,
too, would violate federal law.

State law allows medical marijuana use to be determined on a
patient-by-patient basis, without an age limit. Eagles said some
Humboldt County juveniles have previously received medical marijuana
cards, which further complicates the situation for schools.

"This is an entirely new territory," Eagles said.

Several educators met with law enforcement officials last week to
discuss their concerns. Evans said they're asking the Board of
Supervisors to at least delay voting on the matter until the schools'
questions can be clarified.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin